(Select) List of Branches of Philosophy
Philosophy Club University of Detroit

(Note: All of these definitions are not necessarily exact quotes from the sources listed behind them.)

Map of the major branches of philosophy | Logic | Symbolic Logic | Ethics | Metaphysics | Epistemology | History of Philosophy | Philosophy of Religion | Philosophy of Social Science | Political Philosophy | Philosophy of Language | Philosophy of Art (Aesthetics) | Philosophy of Law | Philosophy of Mind | Philosophy of Science | Philosophy of Psychology | Philosophy of Technology | Existentialism | Phenomenology | Feminist Philosophy

The branch of philosophy that analyzes inference. The study of the principles of reasoning, especially of the structure of propositions as distinguished from their content and of method and validity in deductive reasoning. The science or art of exact reasoning, or of pure and formal thought, or of the laws according to which the processes of pure thinking should be conducted; the science of the formation and application of general notions; the science of generalization, judgment, classification, reasoning, and systematic arrangement; correct reasoning. (dictionary.com) top of page

Symbolic Logic

A treatment of formal logic in which a system of symbols is used to represent quantities and relationships. Also called mathematical logic. (dictionary.com) top of page


The philosophical study of moral values and rules. The study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by a person; moral philosophy. A set of principles of right conduct. A theory or a system of moral values. (dictionary.com) Examples: Kant and Deontology, Mill and Utilitarianism, Ethical Egoism, Aristotle and Virtue Ethics. top of page


The branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value. The term was first used by the followers of Aristotle as a name for that part of his writings which came after, or followed, the part which treated of physics. It is the science of real as distinguished from phenomenal being; ontology; also, the science of being, with reference to its abstract and universal conditions, as distinguished from the science of determined or concrete being; the science of the conceptions and relations which are necessarily implied as true of every kind of being; phylosophy in general; first principles, or the science of first principles.

Metaphysics is distinguished as general and special. General metaphysics is the science of all being as being. Special metaphysics is the science of one kind of being; as, the metaphysics of chemistry, of morals, or of politics. According to Kant, a systematic exposition of those notions and truths, the knowledge of which is altogether independent of experience, would constitute the science of metaphysics.

Commonly, in the schools, called metaphysics, as being part of the philosophy of Aristotle, which hath that for title; but it is in another sense: for there it signifieth as much as "books written or placed after his natural philosophy." But the schools take them for "books of supernatural philosophy;" for the word metaphysic will bear both these senses. --Hobbes. (dictionary.com) top of page


The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity. (dictionary.com)

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that studies knowledge. It attempts to answer the basic question: what distinguishes true (adequate) knowledge from false (inadequate) knowledge? Practically, this questions translates into issues of scientific methodology: how can one develop theories or models that are better than competing theories? It also forms one of the pillars of the new sciences of cognition, which developed from the information processing approach to psychology, and from artificial intelligence, as an attempt to develop computer programs that mimic a human's capacity to use knowledge in an intelligent way. (http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/EPISTEMI.html) top of page

History of Philosophy

The History of Philosophy studies both major philosophers and entire periods in the development of philosophy such as the Ancient, Medieval, Modern, Nineteenth Century, and Twentieth Century periods. It seeks to understand great figures, their influence on others, and their importance for contemporary issues. The history of philosophy in a single nation is often separately studied, as in the case of American Philosophy. So are major movements within a nation, such as British Empiricism and German Idealism, as well as international movements with a substantial history, such as existentialism and phenomenology. The history of philosophy not only provides insight into the other subfields of philosophy; it also reveals many of the foundations of Western Civilization. (Philosophy: A Brief Guide for Undergraduates) top of page

Philosophy of Religion

Another traditional concern of metaphysics is to understand the concept of God, including special attributes such as being all-knowing, being all-powerful, and being wholly good. Both metaphysics and epistemology have sought to assess the various grounds people have offered to justify believing in God. The philosophy of religion treats these topics and many related subjects, such as the relation between faith and reason, the nature of religious language, the relation of religion and morality, and the question of how a God who is wholly good could allow the existence of evil. (Philosophy: A Brief Guide for Undergraduates) top of page

Philosophy of Social Science | Political Philosophy

Political Philosophy concerns the justification and limits of governmental control of individuals; the meaning of equality before the law; the basis of economic freedom; and many other problems concerning government. It also examines the nature and possible arguments for various competing forms of political organization, such as laissez-faire capitalism, welfare democracy (capitalistic and socialistic), anarchism, communism, and fascism. Social Philosophy, often taught in combination with political philosophy (which it overlaps), treats moral problems with large-scale social dimensions. Among these are the basis of compulsory education, the possible grounds for preferential treatment of minorities, the justice of taxation, and the appropriate limits, if any, on free expression in the arts. (Philosophy: A Brief Guide for Undergraduates) top of page

Philosophy of Language

This field has close ties to both epistemology and metaphysics. It treats a broad spectrum of questions about language: the nature of meaning, the relations between words and things, the various theories of language learning, and the distinction between literal and figurative uses of language. Since language is crucial in nearly all human activity, the philosophy of language can enhance our understanding both of other academic fields and of much of what we ordinarily do. (Philosophy: A Brief Guide for Undergraduates) top of page

Philosophy of Art (Aesthetics)

The branch of philosophy that deals with the nature and expression of beauty, as in the fine arts. (dictionary.com) top of page

Philosophy of Law

Philosophers of law are concerned with providing a general philosophical analysis of law and legal institutions. Issues in legal philosophy range from abstract conceptual questions about the nature of law and legal systems to normative questions about the relation between law and morality and the justification for various legal institutions. Topics in legal philosophy tend to be more abstract than related topics in political philosophy and applied ethics. For example, whereas the question of how properly to interpret the U.S. Constitution belongs to democratic theory and hence falls under the heading of political philosophy, the analysis of legal interpretation falls under the heading of legal philosophy. Likewise, whereas the question of whether capital punishment is morally permissible falls under the heading of applied ethics, the question of whether the institution of punishment can be justified falls under the heading of legal philosophy. Topics in legal philosophy fall roughly into three categories: analytic jurisprudence, normative jurisprudence, and critical theories of law. (The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy) top of page

Philosophy of Mind

The branch of philosophy that is concerned with the nature of mental phenomena in general and the role of consciousness, sensation, perception, concepts, action, reasoning, intention, belief, memory, etc. in particular. Standard problems include those of free will, personal identity, mind-body problem, other minds, computationalism, etc.

The philosophers of mind deal with metaphysics as it is concerned with the nature of mental phenomena, how mental phenomena are related to natural phenomena, and philosophical psychology broadly construed. Philosophy of psychology is sometimes considered as a subfield of philosophy of mind. However it is, perhaps, more closely related to philosophy of science. (Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind) top of page

Philosophy of Science

Pivotal concepts common to empirical sciences are examined and clarified. These include: explanation, confirmation, prediction, systematization, empirical significance, and the relationship of all these concepts to the structure of scientific theory. Examples may be drawn from both contemporary and historical science, including the social, biological, and physical sciences. (Philosophy Curriculum @ Washington University) top of page

Philosophy of Psychology

The branch of the philosophy of science concerned specifically with psychology. It is concerned with the sorts of models, theories and explanations used in psychology to address psychological phenomena. (Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind) top of page

Philosophy of Technology

The branch of philosophy that examines moral and social issues arising from late 20th century technological developments. It considers what technology (vs. science or tools) is, and whether technology is morally neutral. An example is the development of the first atomic bomb. The moral responsibility of scientists, technology transfer, the impact of technology on other countries, appropriate technology, technology and women, and technology policy-making are addressed. The Technological Philosophy also addresses the moral and social implications of developments in information technology. (Course Description) top of page


A 20th-century philosophical movement; assumes that people are entirely free and thus responsible for what they make of themselves.A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts. (dictionary.com) top of page


A philosophy or method of inquiry based on the premise that reality consists of objects and events as they are perceived or understood in human consciousness and not of anything independent of human consciousness. A movement based on this, originated about 1905 by Edmund Husserl. (dictionary.com) top of page

Feminist Philosophy

Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. A doctrine that advocates equal rights for women. (dictionary.com) top of page

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Last Updated: April 1, 2005